Drug policies of the 21st century remain focused on repressive approaches in most of the world’s countries. This can make it harder, if not impossible, to progressively intervene regarding psychoactive substance use, preventing possible benefits to public health. Results of more than half a century of repressive (although slightly milder currently in the Czech Republic) policies do not show themselves to be effective. In fact, it’s the opposite. Experts specializing in harm reduction have been calling for more liberal policies for years. Combined with access to verified information and a unified prevention system, they believe such policies would lead to general reduction of problems associated with substances classified as psychoactive – these include the criminalization of users and of possession, substance impurities, and a lack of available harm reduction services. Trust in the state apparatus regarding this issue allows the users to behave responsibly, consult their use and not endanger themselves or others with risky behavior.
If we take a rational look at the topic, we need to admit that there are people around us who use mind-altering substances. These people use them despite the illegality or possible negative impact on their mental or physical health. The “products” they are using are non regulated, black market “goods” very often “labeled” as something it actually is not. The substances’ potential negative effects are not the only way in which the users can harm themselves. Black market psychoactives are not subject to any regulations and are often made with the use of amateur processes and equipment. It comes as no surprise that these products often contain not only the active ingredient itself, but also contain other admixtures, fillers or left-over chemicals needed for production. These can often have worse effects on human health than the actual psychoactive substance. In some cases, application of such undesirable elements might have fatal consequences. Replacing one substance with another can also be dangerous – with the devastating fentanyl epidemic in the US being living proof. Substance analysis programs give an opportunity to take responsibility for own actions in regards of at least knowing what you are using.
Ask yourself, would you drink beer from a bottle without a label? Would you take the risk of, say, methanol being in there?
In the Czech Republic legal issues forced the closure of the substance analysis program almost ten years ago. Currently, the question of potential support of such programs had been brought up by the National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drugs Addiction. Inspired by good practice from abroad, based on evidence, government buddies are discussing (behind the closed doors) how to possibly implement this approach into our pedantic system?
The Youth RISE Czech team had decided to call for a public forum/discussion on the International Day of Drug Abuse (26.6. 2018), and the Support. Don’t Punish campaign, so this topic could be openly discussed in a safe and not conflicted space. The invitation was accepted by the head of National Monitoring Centre MUDr. Viktor Mravčík, head of the National Anti-drug Central Mgr. Jakub Frydrych, head of the 3rd Faculty of Medicine, pharm. Magdalena Šustková, drug policy/harm reduction consultant of the municipality in Brno Mgr. Jakub Černý and two foreign guests pharmacologist from Germany pharm. Tibor Harrach and drug policy activist and Youth RISE Mexico coordinator Brun González.
The public forum called “Drug Czeching“, aimed to introduce the aforementioned topics to the greater public. We believed that the time had come to address this topic and give space to experts and people with various perspectives to discuss it publicly.
The main question was clear: Can we, together, find a way to safely and implement approaches which had been proven effective abroad already?
The whole discussion was recorded and soon will be available to your own consideration.